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A Catch-Up / Other Business

I must admit, it was rather nice to be away from the internet for a week. As you can see in the previous post, the weather and landscape and cottage were splendid. Highlights included rescuing a pipistrel bat, deserted beaches on the Isle of Bute, and the incredible Mount Stuart. And also straying into The Old Bookshelf, a charming little second hand book store, which boasted a tremendous SF and Fantasy section – so much so, that I was forced to strike up a conversation with the owners. It just so happened that this was the store local to Lisa Tuttle and Colin Murray, who would occasionally drop off stock. This solved the mystery of why there was such a good supply of genre books.

I got only a little reading done. Firstly, I confess to abandoning the splendid Downriver, by Iain Sinclair. It was too rich, too treacly a prose for me to cope with at the moment. I’ll maybe come back to it at some point in the future, but I made it halfway through. The prose was sublime, but it was quite literally pages and pages of (occasionally abstract and omniscient) description. Sometimes my mood would suit such a read; being tucked away in a rural cottage did not generate such a mood. Or maybe it was the whisky.

The book I did finish was Six Degrees, something I’d been meaning to read for ages. I enjoyed this, but the content was a little too similar throughout (depressingly so). It was also just a fraction too accessible, too casual a read, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

A few interesting comments came in response to the mass market cover art for City of Ruin.

“But the Harlequin dude must go. It’s not as bad as the infamous Patrick Rothfuss gay cover”

“It looks absolutely dreadful, almost like a Harlequin Romance mated with and Urban Fantasy novel and got spat out in the regular fantasy section…” [In the comments]

Upon seeing an attractive man on the cover of a novel, rather than a hot woman, epic fantasy fans (men, usually) seem get most annoyed. Why is this? I’m not against people simply not liking the design, the quality of the art, the colours, featuring characters in general, whatever. But do men really loathe seeing fit men on covers, only to say bugger all upon seeing attractive women on books? It’s not as though this character in particular was dressed for Men’s Health magazine – he’s kitted out for war, and just happens to be fairly handsome. Brynd is a good-looking guy, and I’m not going to insist the cover features some swamp donkey that not even the tide would take out.

And contrary to a couple of other curious comments – yes, I genuinely do like that cover art. I would let people know if I didn’t.

A final note of congratulations to China Miéville for jointly winning the Hugo for The City & The City (which I sort-of reviewed in March last year). Thoroughly well-deserved.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

14 replies on “A Catch-Up / Other Business”

Well, I recently ranted about The Red Tree cover featuring a nice woman, so…

I don’t get much of the hate about your cover. I don’t like it a lot personally, but there’s nothing to really hate. It’s average and that’s where the problems lay.

What I can say is that it gives a somewhat generic impression. The title font is plain. The guy in the foreground looks like a mix of photo with CG. For fantasy it’s usually a better choice to go the “painting” route with a recognizable style/artist. An interpretation of a scene more than a snapshot.

Moon + castle + belligerent guy. It’s too conventional. If we ask THE WRITER new ideas and way to interpret a genre then we should also ask publishers new ideas to package the books.

Research based on trends that never change is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Take Abercrombie’s covers. They aren’t anything wildly experimental, but at least they developed a recognizable pattern and are well done. One could say it’s an Abercrombie book even without reading who’s the writer.

While I have quite liked the rest of Mark’s various covers, I have to admit I’m not a fan of this one. But mostly because I’m not a fan of this style and the fact that I think the model looks more a slimmer version of Boris Johnson. Those are just my problems, not Mark’s.

That said, it think the comment highlighted in Mark’s post is a rather juvinelle response. The interweb is a strange place where humour and off-the-index-finger remarks can come across more damning that truly meant. But the comment does make the poster sound rather hung up over an issue of sexuality that is maturely dealt with in Mark’s series.

Is the poster really being homophobic, or does it only sound that way? The problem is, you just can’t tell online and so often assume the worst.

A cautionary example.


It’s a bit of a cheap shot to infer that those who don’t like the cover are subconciously sexually threatened by the cover art.

I don’t mind an attractive guy being on the front cover in the slightest; I’m simply not a big fan of putting characters on the front cover in a way that leaves no wiggle room for the imagination.

I take similar issue with the recent editions of the Steig Larrsson books, which incidentally, feature a woman.

It wouldn’t prevent me from buying the book if I already knew about it. But then it MIGHT dissuade me from bothering to pick it up in a store if i’d never ever heard of it before.

All considered I don’t think it’s something to worry about. Those who’ve opposed it are already confirmed readers of Mark C. Newton 😀

Mark my only problem with the cover is that it clashed with my own image of Brynd.I concur with Jo, I have no problem whatsoever with a good looking bloke on the cover it’s just that my image of Brynd was very different. I pictured him as older and more careworn rather than the young whippersnapper pictured.

Of course, Mr. Edwards’ Boris Johnson reference has only made things worse because Brynd now bears a striking resemblance 🙂

On the bright side this does answer an age old question. If Boris were the head of an Emperor’s bodyguard in a fantasy setting what would he look like? We have our answer and can rest easier for it 🙂

Abalieno – I think it’s difficult for publishers to build business models on the aesthetic preferences of a few people. They can react only to what people buy. Unfortunately, this does make a difference. Sure, occasionally something different catches the eye. But let’s not forget, variances on figures/cities/maps have been on genre book jackets for decades. Just modern spins on that. The front line of bookselling is a great leveller.

Eric & Niall – the best I heard was a young Oliver Reed, which I much prefer to Boris…

Jo / Phil – you know, I’m never quite sure how much I buy this argument of showing the characters leaving room for the imagination. It’s just one character, one particular point of the story. There are many more for imaginations work on. Plus, this figure actually looks more like the version of Brynd I had in mind, frighteningly so. To me, I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing at all. And for everyone who likes to stretch their imagination, there are some, no doubt, who like their imagination steered a little more directly. The fact that the market is leaning towards this suggests it may be the case.

Maybe I’ll write a blundering mayoral figure who shatters a city’s welfare through shady dealings then… Oh no, wait… 🙂

[…] prose, his eye for psychogeography, and his bizarre portraits of people. I tried reading Downriver, last year on holiday, and loved it, but couldn’t finish it. I got about half-way through. It was too rich for me, […]

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